efe-epaAstana

Kazakhstan has compiled a list of 40 countries its Foreign Ministry is to target in a bid to attract more foreign investment, the country's top diplomat, Beibut Atamkulov, said Wednesday.

"In order to do a more effective job attracting investment, the ministry has drawn up a list of 40 priority countries," Foreign Minister Atamkulov said during a meeting with ambassadors accredited in Astana.

He said the stout European economies of Germany, France, Italy and Spain are on the list, as well as global powerhouses Russia, the United States, China and Japan, and the Middle Eastern nations of Iran, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

The Kazakh government has commissioned Atamkulov's ministry to stress "economic diplomacy" in its dealings abroad to attract new investments in 2019 and to promote Kazakh exports in foreign markets.

Trade between Kazakhstan and Spain, for example, increased significantly last year to $1.8 billion between January and November.

More than 60 companies with Spanish capital now operate in the country, among them Talgo, Indra and Maxam.

The resource-rich Central Asian nation seeks to diversify its economy and reduce dependence on oil, gas and non-ferrous metals, mainly uranium, the main raw materials it exports.

"In 2018, the total value of exports amounted to $54.7 billion," the Kazakh minister told the foreign diplomats.

In the government's bid to move the nation toward a self-sufficient economy, the Foreign Ministry will also work with other ministries on issues related to compliance with international standards during the production and packaging processes, Atamkulov explained.

President Nursultan Nazarbayev appointed Atamkulov to the post of foreign minister in December with the aim of boosting economic activity abroad.

A career economist, Atamkulov has extensive experience in international trade as deputy chief executive officer of Sauda (which means trade in Kazakh), a company that distributes products in Asia and Europe and has offices in Russia.